Before I say anything else, let me say this – If someone says they don’t want anything for Christmas you might want to try just honoring that request. It’s not the worst thing in the world for someone to not want gifts. Ask them once to be very sure that’s what they mean when they say “I want nothing”, then perhaps just acknowledge their request and say you’re going to respect your wishes.
But, if you really want to feel as though you’ve checked that box, or if you KNOW that person is just saying that but really expects something, then here’s some ideas to consider.
- Treat them to dinner over the holidays. I did that with my friend who came to town over the holidays. I thought about what I might buy her, but she was in between apartments and living at a friend’s so I knew “stuff” probably wasn’t what she needed at the moment.
- Donate to their favorite charity on their behalf. Oh, I would be THRILLED to receive donations to Muttville instead of stuff I don’t need.
- Buy them tickets to something. A show, the ballet, movie passes or anything they might be interested in attending. Better to pick something that doesn’t have a designated date (like theater passes) so they can chose to go when they want.
- Bake or cook for them. My aunt used to make stacks of Irish potato bread and package it in tin boxes. Let me tell you, that bread was the most coveted gift at all our family holiday parties. I miss it so much. I also worked with a CFO who’s wife made chocolate truffles for everyone in the office. They were packaged in little 4-peice boxes that you can get at the dollar store. Beautiful presentation and damn good chocolates!
- Take a lesson together. For Christmas one year, I bought myself and a friend a pass to a local cooking class where we both learned to make amazing food for an afternoon. It was a great time, we both acquired a new skill and we got a great meal out of the experience as well. I’ll never forget how much fun that day was.
- Get them Yoga or other fitness related passes. Most fitness facilities have holiday packages or gift certificates you can buy. I love this idea as it’s often the kick-in-the-pants motivation someone needs to try something new and get their butts off the couch.
- Give them a pass to SkillShare or CreativeLive. This is particularly thoughtful if you know they have a certain passion or hobby they want to get better at. Whether it’s graphic design, photography or writing romance novels, both of these platforms have amazing courses to chose from.
- Adopt an exotic animal on their behalf. From elephants to polar bears, you can adopt and protect pretty much any creature that calls to you from the World Wildlife Fund. I can guarantee this is a gift that would make both of you feel like a hero.
- Give them something to nerd out on. 23andme will send you a kit that will help them determine their ancestry or DNA. I would find that interesting, wouldn’t you?
The common thread of all the things mentioned above is that they’re thoughtful ideas that say “I thought of you” without actually giving someone more stuff. When I was a kid, my mom always asked us to make something for her. I thought this was a corny request, but now that I’m older, I totally understand where she’s coming from. Stuff can be useful and there’s certainly nothing wrong with gifting things, particularly when they are requested. But I feel like so much psychic energy is wasted on guessing what might be useful or appreciated, not to mention the time and energy actually acquiring the item.
I hope these ideas help you have a more peaceful, thoughtful holiday this year!
When J. Money sent out a note to the Rockstar Finance Community asking for 20 bloggers who would be willing to take $100 (from him) and do some good with it, then blog about it, I didn’t hesitate to say ME PLEASE!!!! He wanted to know in advance exactly what each person would do with the funds and of course, my first thought was to send it to my favorite charity here in SF that rescues senior dogs.
Older dogs are often surrendered for a number of reasons and they are generally the last to be adopted, if ever. Muttville pulls old dogs from shelters (who often get euthanized almost immediately), gets them any medical attention they need, then puts them up for adoption so they can live out their remaining years with a loving family.
Older dogs are the bomb. They’re more relaxed and chill than younger pups, rarely eat shoes or chew your furniture and generally know how the whole potty thing works. I have two of them myself, and if I play my cards right, I’ll get a chance to foster one of these pooches-of-a-certain-age next year!!
So, unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the first 20 bloggers to respond to the invitation and I didn’t get the $100 do-good donation money. That’s the crappy part of living on the west coast. All the cool stuff is taken before I even roll out of bed in the morning. Damn east coasters!
But, giving is always part of my year-end tradition anyway, so I happily made my donation out of pocket.
I so love a good deal 😃
Anyway, I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday season and whatever you celebrate, I hope you have the company of people you love and a few furry critters to enjoy the time with. Oh, and if you’re lonely and looking for love in all the wrong places, check out Muttville. You can’t ask for a better love than that of a sweet little rescue dog. They warm my heart every single day.
From our family to yours,
My husband and I aren’t religious. We don’t have kids and we don’t have family nearby. We also stopped going “home” for the holidays (our respective birthplaces that aren’t really home anymore) years ago.
Given all that, Christmases aren’t typical in our home.
I’m not complaining about our nontraditional holiday season. On the upside, we don’t have huge lists of Christmas presents to buy, there’s no exhaustion from the hustle and bustle, no excessive holiday parties or time spent with family members we’d rather not hang out with. It’s a very peaceful, drama-free time of year for us, actually.
That said, there’s always an underlying sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) that comes with having an experience that’s different from what we see on TV and even in the blogosphere. I always have those moments of feeling as though I’m on the outside looking in when I see pictures of beautifully decorated homes or adults drinking eggnog and laughing away in their tacky Christmas sweaters.
Shouldn’t I be doing that, too?
Honestly, I’ve always had a sense of dread around Christmas for this very reason. When I was a kid, my father would always drink too much and go into a rage and the whole day would be ruined. It was anything BUT your normal family holiday scene. As a young adult, I felt bad if I was single at the holidays or didn’t have plans for New Years. In my 30’s, it was imperfect for so many reasons that would take a year to list, and even now, with my wonderful husband and two awesome fur babies, I feel a sense of lack around the holidays.
In the past few years, I’ve experimented with different ways of dealing with my holiday malaise. Last year, my husband and I went to Costa Rica. We literally spent the whole day on a plane on the 25th and I loved that we skipped the day entirely. However, traveling over the holidays has its own issues and after almost missing our connecting flight home and being stranded in customs with 7000 cranky travelers, we swore up we’d never travel over Christmas again.
There was also that year we skipped Christmas entirely. We decided to adopt the Jewish traditions for the holidays and just get takeout and watch movies all day long. There was no tree, no holiday cards, no gifts, no events. Just business, as usual, all December long. Ironically, the only things I really missed about the holidays that year was our annual Christmas card tradition. We always take a picture with the dogs and send cards out to everyone we know whether they celebrate Christmas or not (we keep the cards agnostic). I love this tradition because as I sit and write out the cards, I have a moment thinking about each person who receives it. It’s heartwarming to think about all the friends and family we have in our lives.
This year, we’re staying home for Christmas. I did put up a tree, mostly because I think it makes the living room look cozy and inviting. We’ll buy each other a few things that we’d probably want to get anyway, and we’re meeting up for dinner with a few friends that will be in town as well. That’s it!
What about you? Are Christmas traditions a big deal for you and your family?
If you’re sick of your day job and dream of an early retirement, then what I outline below will be helpful for you to figure out if it’s feasibly possible yet. What might surprise you is that you could be closer to telling your boss to shove it than you think, depending on what you’re expectations are.
The Road to Financial Independence (or, “FI” as the money nerds like to say)
The traditional route to FI (yes, I’m a nerd) based on the pioneers of the movement is to keep your expenses so low that not only can you save for retirement faster, you also commit to keeping expenses low for the rest of your life, so you can live on a smaller nest egg.
Here’s some easy math (the only math I’m capable of) to figure that out for yourself:
Financial indépendance (FI) is defined as having enough money saved so that your investments can cover your daily expenses to the point where you no longer have to work for an income. The equation to calculate what that magic number is for you, is to multiply 25 times your annual expenses. So, if you’re someone who only spends 25K per year, then once you’ve reached $625,000 (25 x $25K) in investments, you can live off the proceeds of that figure and thereby kiss your cubicle life goodbye and sleep in till noon every day for the rest of your life.
Sounds good, right?
Well, that depends whether you’re cool living on 25K per year (adjusted for inflation) for the rest of your days which is a pretty meager income, even in the cheapest areas of the US. It would be impossible to live here in the SF Bay Area on that income, but even in Birmingham, Alabama or Youngstown, Ohio where you can still buy a single family home for $40,000, it would still be a stretch.
No vacations, no dining out, no shopping trips to the outlet malls and not a lot of wiggle room for the things that generally come up in life, like medical expenses or car repairs.
Basically, at this level, you’re committing to being poor, but well rested for the rest of your days.
The Good News
This equation doesn’t factor in any other possible income streams you may have, like pensions, social security or inheritances. It also doesn’t account for income you might make from any random jobs you could pick up in your post-retirement life. It’s just a standard baseline of what you could count on to cover your expenses, based on your current savings.
The Bad News
If you’re in your 40’s and your current nest egg wouldn’t afford you a roomy cardboard box at the rate of 25x, then you’ve got some work to do, but all is not lost. You can start right now by reducing your expenses and increasing your income to build that retirement account up. You can also think about a post-cube career that will afford you the ability to feel a little “retired-ish” without losing your income entirely.
The Important Takeaway
Clearly, the best time to start saving for retirement is when you’re still in the womb. The next best time is today, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not even close yet. With a little creativity, focus and determination, you’d be surprised how fast you can accumulate wealth.